Back in April I was inspired by a commenter who believed blogging should be instinctive, and it’s stuck with me ever since. At the time I was trying to work out exactly what I wanted out of my blog, but my progress was hindered by my difficult third term at university. In the past few weeks, however, I’ve been returning to these ideas and found them really worthwhile, so perhaps they might be of use to other bloggers who are struggling with their direction and motivation too.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why I blog. I put a lot of time and effort into this space, but by normal standards – by which I mean my numeric following – my blog is insignificant; I don’t have thousands of followers on WordPress, Bloglovin’, Twitter or Instagram. I don’t get reams of comments after each post. And although blogging isn’t and should never be all about the numbers, they can be helpful benchmarks for progress, growth and direction.
But it’s true that amongst all the numbers it can be difficult to remember where and why we started in the first place. Of course, aims and intentions develop over time, but I think that an element of consistency is essential for success – whether that’s through the type of post, blog “niche” or voice of the writer. I don’t believe that a blog is ever ‘finished’: one of its joys is that there’s always room to improve, but over the last few weeks I’ve realised that perhaps the most difficult stage is settling the solid foundations on which the blogger can build.
I haven’t made that many changes as a result of these considerations (yet), but my thoughts all lead back to the same question:
what are my blogging values?
That might seem like an odd thing to ask, and I think it’s more complicated than it first appears. What I mean by it is: what is my blog’s purpose? What does it give to its readers?
Because although blogging is personal, and it is about self-growth for the writer, it’s also about the audience: why write if not to be read? So when trying to define a blog, we first need to have a sense not of what we want it to be, but what we want it to do.
My blog began as a simple photographic journal of my summertime back in 2013; it was a completely personal place for me to document my time, and I put it online so it would all be safe and in one place for me to return to if I ever needed. When the project was finished I used it as an occasional sounding board for political or feminist issues, and it continued in this fashion for a couple of years. It was only when I headed to university that I really discovered the extent of the blogging community, and realised that this space had more potential than I realised.
Many blogs fit in the “fashion and beauty” category, providing makeup advice and keeping readers up-to-date on the latest trends, and back in January I wrote about how important these blogs and their creators are to the industry. Some blogs I follow are designed simply to support other bloggers in their online ventures, others document their writers’ travels all over the world, and yet more focus on fitness and wellbeing. Mental health blogs are gaining a lot of traction, and a huge number – mine included – fit under the umbrella term of “lifestyle” and feature an enormous variation of topics
There are more specific sites too, from book blogs to baking blogs, art blogs to political blogs – the list goes on and on. But the successful ones all have something in common: they know what they’re for. Whether it’s to teach their readership about makeup, or provide book reviews, or help us get healthier, or show us what life is like in different parts of the world, or a mixture of some or all of the above, their creators write with a purpose in mind.
I like to think of this purpose as the blog’s – and, by extension, the blogger’s – values.
Principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life
Your blog’s values are up to you to decide; just switch the word ‘life’ in the definition out for ‘blogging’. But I think that it’s a useful place to start when looking for direction for your blog, like I’m trying to do over this summer. So what are mine?
I want my content to give back
This might seem like a given, but looking back over my old posts has shown me that all too often I’ve written with just one person in mind: me. That’s okay, but how much point is there really in posting online something which only benefits myself? This is one of the reasons I’ve decided not to do a summer onehundred project this year: it just isn’t inclusive enough for my audience.
I want to write well
Perhaps this is most important of all. Of course, we all love a blog with a stunning design and beautiful photographs, but the number-one thing for me is good writing. If a blog isn’t written well, I don’t really see the point (I’m excusing photography blogs here, for fairly obvious reasons). I want my blog to be easy and accessible, but with balanced, well-paced and creative writing at its very heart – even if this compromises regular posting once in a while.
Inspire, debate, encourage, educate
Arguably this is four values in one, but this is my new checklist for every post. If a post does all of these things in some way, however subtle, then I should be doing my job properly. Will it inspire my audience? Does it foster a space for debate? Does it positively and actively encourage my readers? Do they learn something new from my writing? I doubt I’ll ever stop working on this, but I’ll do my best every time.
The values all tie in together, so I can’t tick one off without ticking another. It’s a helpful way of thinking about and planning each piece, and ensures I keep my readers in mind at all time, but I hope it will also enable me to become more secure in my style and tone to help provide that consistency I mentioned at the beginning.
Ultimately, I can’t be the judge of any of this – that has to come from the readers. But I’m also really interested in what other bloggers think about this, so see if you can answer my original question in the comments – what are your blogging values? What matters most to you in creating your blog? Let me know below!